Psychological insights on relationships: rejections, breakups, making relationships happy, unhealthy dynamics, and general psychology.

Sexting, Texting, Flirting and Other Types of Cheating

We’ve listed 11 types of partner infidelity (with other people, excluding financial cheating or other betrayals) and also gave you perspectives on cheating: whether your partner is really cheating and how serious their cheating is.

Three people sitting. One partner is cheating on the other
  • It’s worth mentioning that people perceive different forms of cheating differently. Some don’t even consider certain actions to be cheating but rather as incidental, trivial, etc.

Why Do People Cheat?

How We Perceive Cheating

This perception depends on our environment, the criteria we’ve set for ourselves and others, our inner world experiences, the culture we were raised in, etc.

If you grew up in a liberal family, you might not have strict criteria for cheating. If you’re insecure, you might consider everything to be cheating. Or you might have a personal idea about cheating (for example, you believe that people shouldn’t open opportunities for infidelity).

This is precisely why it is best to pair up with partners who have similar criteria (and for cheating) as you; they come from similar backgrounds and standards. Cheating is a slippery slope, and different criteria for cheating can destroy a relationship.

But I want to emphasize that people usually do not cheat to harm you (there is also such a case, and it is mentioned further down in the text). Most of the time, people cheat to get some emotional-psychological satisfaction.

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How We Deal With Cheating

Cheated woman

Since we’ve listed 11 types of cheating, we could also assign a weight from 1 to 11. Let’s say 1 isn’t significant, and 11 leads to a breakup. By assigning different weights, you’ll see that not every form of infidelity, even if emotionally perceived, is worth breaking up over, shedding tears over, or punishing.

What’s important to understand is that you determine what is acceptable and unacceptable in your relationship, and it’s up to your partner to respect and follow your wishes.

Of course, if many things are unacceptable, you must find a partner who meets your criteria. However, it’s important to emphasize that it makes no sense to expect a partner to completely adapt to you if they’re not already like that. The same applies in the opposite direction.

The essence is that you’ll get along best with a partner who has compatible views on what is allowed and what isn’t because, with any other partner, you’ll have to make compromises, which can be challenging to maintain.

Forms of Cheating Ranked by Certain Criteria

1. Liking and Commenting on Social Media (Micro-Cheating)

This is more about attracting attention. The person doing this might ultimately want to attract attention and deepen what they’ve started through meetings, conversations, etc., or they might just be satisfied with this small excursion.

A person can feel relevant and perhaps even important if they receive attention from an attractive person.

If your partner does this, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have a good talk with them on two topics:

  • What does this mean to them? Allow them to be articulate.
  • How do you feel when they do this? Be articulate about your feelings. Don’t attack your partner because it distracts you from the topic.

Perhaps this should not be given too much attention because the fact is that by now everyone knows that there is more or less false representation on social networks and that few achieve success through them. People are satisfied with chats, compliments, and likes, and after that, they return to their life setting.

Guy fall out of love

Also, due to the dangers of social networks, people do not dare to go beyond online communication. This kind of communication improves their ego, curiosity, and need for proof and keeps them in a safe place. This type of attention somehow belongs to lazy people, who are actually the most afraid of change.
And let us never forget the needs of our Id, which likes to be entertained and satisfied.

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2. Flirting

Man and woman in relationship

Again, it depends on your criteria and how you perceive it. Many people see flirting as a natural and harmless way of expressing attraction. It can be fun and pleasant, boost self-confidence, and be interpreted as part of human nature. It can also help people bond socially.

It can be completely acceptable if you and your partner agree on this. Of course, for a good understanding, it’s necessary to have a thorough conversation about flirting, what’s allowed, how each of you views flirting, etc.

Arguments against flirting are that it can be a form of emotional cheating. It can cause jealousy, insecurity, feelings of betrayal toward a partner, and distrust and uncertainty in the relationship. The partner may become suspicious and unsure of the commitment of the person flirting. Because of flirting, a partner can become insecure and constantly wonder if the flirting will end in infidelity.

An additional problem with flirting is its great potential for escalation. For instance, flirting can be slippery, and boundaries can easily be crossed. That’s why flirting might be a good idea for some people who do it with clear intent (to have fun, create a nice relationship, etc.), but for people who do not have perfect self-control, flirting is by no means a good idea.

The obvious problem is that the partner cannot know the intentions of his partner or another person.

And the final argument against flirting is that in long-term relationships, flirting can disrupt the sense of exclusivity that partners share. This sense is often the most essential thing people have in relationships.

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3. Texting

People do this to express interest in someone or to have fun. Additionally, when they can’t communicate due to distance, this can be a way to maintain interest and intimacy.

Texting includes:

  • Romantic messages: “I’ve been thinking about you all day. Can’t wait to see you again.”
  • Flirtatious messages: “If you keep this up, I’ll have to invite you for coffee to get to know you better.”
  • Suggestive messages: “Do you know how attractive you are when you smile?”
  • This includes emojis: hearts, kisses, anything that enhances the message.
  • Explicit messages: “What are you wearing right now? I want to imagine how you look.”
  • Sexting: Messages that use sexual content. Pictures, sexual implications, etc.
Man and woman on date

As with everything else, this can be interpreted as cheating or not. If you believe that cheating only occurs if there’s physical contact, then this isn’t cheating for you.

However, another group of people will feel jealousy and distrust. As with flirting, there’s potential for escalation here.

I must note that many people believe that texting and sexting satisfy their need for interaction with others, but they also allow them to control their behavior and not go too far.

However, I must also say that I’ve had many clients in my career who created problems for themselves by sending explicit photos and messages.

A good guideline for preventing this would be to never send anything you wouldn’t put on a billboard.

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4. Using Dating Apps

Once, I had a client who used dating apps just to see who was on there and check if he recognized anyone. He also enjoyed reading bios and looking at pictures. He messaged some women for fun, but meetings never happened because he had several fake profiles. Because of this, he was blocked multiple times on various platforms.

Many people would also consider this cheating.

People on these apps might seek excitement and novelty, validation of their attractiveness, or, being in serious relationships, they might try to compensate for something they feel they’re missing. This could also be an act of revenge on their partner, keeping their options open, stemming from selfish needs, or simply a lack of seriousness.

Whether this is considered cheating will depend on your views. However, since dating apps typically involve people seeking some form of emotional or physical connection, this is the most direct way to meet someone new and potentially impact a relationship.

Group of people

At the same time, as everything happens in the digital world, people now know that many profiles are fake, photos are edited and photoshopped, bios are fabricated, and some are just looking for one-night stands. This is why people in stable relationships usually don’t get too caught up in these interactions.

But it’s worth questioning why your partner might be on such an app. It’s a matter worth investigating. And a reason to diminish trust.

In my country, there’s a saying: “Opportunity makes a thief.” This is why communication, flirting, or interaction are questionable.

One of the most reliable ways to avoid cheating is to avoid putting oneself in a position where it could happen.

We must be aware that we are emotional beings, and our emotions can easily overwhelm and conquer our rationality. We fall in love, admire, and feel lust, and if we interact with people we like, we can easily slip into something more profound.

Ultimately, people we find appealing for flirting or sexting are people we deem better than others. There is a thin line between: “You are better than others” and “You are the best I have met.”

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5. Hidden Friendships

A couple sits at dinner and breaks up

Hidden friendships are an interesting form of cheating. If a partner disagrees with the other having contact with certain friends, this can also be interpreted as cheating. Although it may not necessarily have sexual connotations or cross boundaries, the person maintaining these friendships might feel the need for this type of freedom or don’t want to give up these relationships.

The partner who doesn’t want these friends in their partner’s life might consider them a bad influence, a potential threat to the relationship, or maybe they are just insecure or selfish.

In these cases, reassurance that the friends don’t negatively influence the partner, introducing them, and pointing out the personal benefits for the insecure partner might help.

To me, this points to incompatibility in life values. One partner might believe there shouldn’t be friendships outside the relationship or friendships with the opposite sex (in the case of gay relationships with the same sex). And the other partner may believe that friendships are simply what their name says – friendships.

However, a partnership should be one in which both sides feel good. Here, we won’t argue about whether freedom or restrictions are better, but we’ll say that a partnership is more accessible if partners have compatible views on life.

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6. Hidden Communication with Ex-Partners or Potential Threats

Two people speaking, on person in their mind, Partner was cheating

This involves a partner not wanting to break off communication with subjects of their sexual or emotional interest.

Again, opinions differ, and some people are allowed to communicate and even stay friends with exes, while others have this idea: Why would you try to be friends if you couldn’t be a couple because you were so different?

In their defense, some people function better as friends than as intimate and sexual partners.

However, the fact is that many people remain emotionally stuck with their ex-partners whose relationship couldn’t survive or work out. Nevertheless, they still desire that person. Their new partner, with whom the relationship works, might not be what they subconsciously, emotionally, and unconsciously want (this applies to people who tend to attach to those who reject them).

Therefore, an ex-partner can be a severe emotional obstacle, preventing one from developing new patterns and feelings toward the current partner.

Sometimes, people are satisfied with just having their ex-partner around while spending life with their current partner.

However, this could be a relationship that should have always been a friendship.

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7. Cyber-cheating and Social Media

Handsome man standing

Countless times, I’ve met couples who deleted their social media accounts once they became couples.

People have various reasons for turning to internet cheating or communication with others: seeking attention, dissatisfaction, fear of missed opportunities and better options, easy accessibility and anonymity, need for excitement, sexual frustration, etc.

What you can expect to see in this kind of cheating includes:

  • Using fake profiles
  • Exchanging intimate and emotional messages, photos, or videos with someone who isn’t the partner
  • Sending and receiving sexually explicit messages, pictures, or videos
  • Sexually explicit activities via video chats
  • Hidden conversations

As with texting or dating apps, this might be an outlet for the partner and usually is. People who lack the courage to leave their partner or confront them find relief in this.

However, this can obviously hurt the partner, even if they were never left and physical contact never happened.

The partner doesn’t have to approve of such behavior, even if the background is just an outlet or revenge.

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8. Emotional Affair

Attractive man sitting

This is about a deep emotional connection with someone that doesn’t involve physical contact but is, for some, the worst form of cheating.

The partner might not feel guilty because they haven’t physically cheated. Also, they might be unable to control their emotions toward another person.

  • Somehow this seems to people (and they often convince themselves) that this is somehow a pure form of love. Like – it’s just love. It’s not cheating. And the partner feels like it’s the worst possible betrayal and fraud.

This can be influenced. Communication with that person can be cut off. Evidence can be sought to show that a person isn’t what they think. They can be demystified. Evidence of their ordinariness or even negative traits can be sought.

The most effective way to get people out of idealizing someone is to be personally hurt, threatened, or offended by that person.

So, suppose you’re the partner of someone who idealizes another person. In that case, my recommendation is to understand what would personally hurt your partner if that person did it and then arrange for that to happen.

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9. Watching Pornography

Beautiful woman after toxic relationship

This is also a matter of subjective stance. Whether watching pornography is seen as a betrayal is a matter of personal values, the culture in which the partners grew up, personal and intimate attitudes toward pornography, boundaries, and agreements in the relationship.

Many people who watch pornography do so only to satisfy their sexual needs on an individual level without impacting the relationship. Their justification is that pornography doesn’t involve an emotional connection with another person, which is a critical factor in many definitions of cheating.

However, there’s another viewpoint where a partner who disagrees with watching pornography might feel jealous or inadequate. Also, watching pornography can distort the image of sexual relationships and the expectations of sex. It can form a picture of how the partner should look or behave in sex, leading to decreased intimacy in the relationship due to unmet expectations.

The third problem is the hiding and lying about consuming erotic content, which undermines trust in the relationship.

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10. Physical Cheating (Kissing, Cuddling)

A beautiful woman sitting

Cuddling, holding hands, hugging, and other forms of physical closeness, regardless of whether the partner intended to go further (and often didn’t intend to), can be seen as an intimate act.

Kissing is interesting because many consider it a more intimate act than sex and, therefore, see it as the ultimate betrayal.

Finally, we have touching intimate parts of the body, which can be considered sex even without penetration.

People often cannot cross this line, even if they have crossed all other boundaries.

11. Sexual Affairs (Sexual Relations)

The boundary that many couples consider as the one that must only be crossed if the partners have agreed otherwise.

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